Asian giant Iran unveils squad for 2022 FIFA World Cup

On 21 November, Iran and England will meet on the pitch to start off the Group B competitions.

The 26-person Iranian World Cup team has been officially announced by Carlos Queiroz, the head coach, making their sixth FIFA debut this year.

Seeded in Group B alongside the United States, Wales, and England, Iran will kick-start their first 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage game on 21 November.

Standing at 20th position on FIFA Men’s ranking list, Iran is also the top Asian team in the FIFA rankings, above Japan and South Korea.

“I think Iran and Japan are most likely among Asian teams with the ability to pass the group stage of the World Cup,” Iran’s newly re-appointed Portuguese coach, told Iranian media in October.

The team’s previous FIFA World Cup appearances dates back to 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, and 2018, with their biggest victory residing over their game against the United States back in 1998 with a 2-1 win. Iran and the US have not since met on the football field, but will do so at this year’s FIFA World Cup.

Mehdi Taremi, who has continued to flourish for his club Porto in European competitions, unsurprisingly earned a berth next to fellow forwards Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun.

Currently, 30-year-old striker and Porto star Mehdi Taremi is the most prominent Iranian player. Another major player is forward Sardar Azmoun of the German Bayer Leverkusen. Azmoun suffered an injury while playing for Leverkusen in early October, but medical professionals are optimistic that he can heal in time for Qatar 2022.

Omid Ebrahimi, a veteran defensive midfielder, is likely the largest absence. Last week, he was declared out due to an injury.

The Iranian team is part of the only group in the World Cup 2022 where all teams are among the top 20 in global rankings.

If the Iranian squad, known as Team Melli, makes it out of the group stage, an achievement it has never accomplished despite coming close numerous times, it will be a historic moment for the Asian giants.

Iran is looking to hold a slight advantage going into this year’s World Cup as they won their qualifying group with 25 points and a +11 goal differential.

At the time, Dragan Skoi had taken over as the team’s coach, and although only having the job around just for two and a half years, the club set some impressive records.

15 of Skoi’s 18 games as head coach were victories. Iran qualified for the World Cup more quickly than ever before at that time, giving up only eight goals while securing 40 goals. The then-coach secured the longest winning streak among all head coaches in Team Melli history.

Known as the ‘Persian Leopards’, the Iranian national football team became the first Asian squad to qualify for the World Cup finals with a 1-0 win in its capital against Iraq on 27 January.

The country has been rocked by protests for nearly two months now, which started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody, distorting Iran’s World Cup attention.

Since the outbreak of protests across the Persian Gulf country, athletes, including football players in the local league and in international competitions, have refused to celebrate victories, prizes, and goals.

Team Melli in full

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beyranvand (Persepolis), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina), Payam Niazmand (Sepahan), Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal).

Defenders: Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Mohammad Hossein Kanaanizadegan (Al Ahli), Shojae Khalilzadeh (Al Ahli), Morteza Pouraliganji (Persepolis), Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb), Ramin Rezaeian (Sepahan), Milad Mohammadi (AEK Athens), Abolfazl Jalali (Esteghlal).

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatollahi (Vejle Boldklub), Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Nourollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Ali Karimi (Kayserispor), Saman Ghoddos (Brentford), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Ali Gholizadeh (Sporting Charleroi), Mehdi Taremi (FC Porto), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Karim Ansarifard (Omonia Nicosia), Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen).

The Persian Leopards will face England on 21 November, followed by Wales on 25 November and the US on 29 November.

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